Saturday, November 14, 2009
A "Break All The Rules" Day
Today my little boy turned 5.
I awoke this morning and forgot what day it was. My eyes opened, I looked at the clock, and my first thought was: it’s 6:30 and I’ve overslept. No, wait. It’s Saturday. As usual on a weekend, the two males in my household who are morning people were already awake.
“Is it my birthday today?” I heard Grant ask from the other room. He has been grappling with days, hours, weeks, and minutes to understand which is his special day. “Yes,” replied his father. “FI---NAL--LY!” said Grant, with all the bit of energy a fresh five-year-old could muster.
And so it is. Five years ago he was born. I remember the moment when he was placed on my torso, a completely warm, moving, lovely baby who has just made me a mother. It was like a dream sequence. I circled my arms around him and looked up at whoever was near and asked, “Is it real? Is he OK?” My mother shook her head yes, and then the whole rest of the world fell away and I was holding my child. At 6:59 p.m., after weeks and months or waiting and 26 hours of labor, my sweet baby boy came into this world and changed my life forever. Yes, it was your birth day. Fi---nal---ly.
When he turned one, I made a solemn vow to myself to spend “just us” time with him on his birthday. With the pace of life, and the fact that he would be more mobile at some point and not want to spend time snuggling with me during quiet time, it occurred to me that a loftier goal like a whole day together might not be reasonable. But a quiet moment to let him know he is completely loved on his special day would be a promise I could keep no matter what.
And so he sped off. Learned to walk; hit the milestones. He was a toddler when we first learned about his sensory integration issues (see http://www.sensory-processing-disorder.com/). He has normal days, and then there are days when his need to interpret the world in a tactile or physical manner is not socially acceptable, or welcome. He spends a lot of time being told “no” and “listen” and “don’t do that” and “you can’t eat that.” So today, I wanted to allow as much “yes” into his universe as possible. Starting with a donut with sprinkles on it for breakfast. Sugar and flour first thing in the morning, Mr. Gluten Intolerance? Sure. Followed by bowling with every plastic bottle he could pull out of the recycle bin. Play ball in the house? Terrific. Stay in his pajamas and not run errands with Daddy? Mighty fine. And a snack out of a large bag of Doritos that turned his fingers and lips completely orange a half hour before his birthday party? Go ahead. Fingerpaint with the nacho cheese for all I care. It’s his day; he gets to decide.
Next was the party. You would think that a birthday at Rainforest Café with animatronic animals, thunder and lightening, music, shooting stars, and friends would spell disaster for a kid with sensory issues. Surprisingly, it was perfect. Just when the little ones were getting impatient for the food to arrive, the apes would launch into their routine. Or a storm would pass. It was a fine environment for a boy with a short attention span and sensory overload.
We kicked more rules to the curb. Don’t wanna nap? Okay by me. Play with two remote-controlled toys while watching a video? That’s multitasking at its best. A second piece of birthday cake? Answer’s yes.
If you’re really lucky you can give your child all the basics – clothing, shelter, food, predictability, safety, and a few fun diversions. But if you’re really, really lucky you can give your child memories that are fond capsules of love, outrageous laugher, a sense of belonging, and a reason to look forward as well as glance back.
“I like my birthdays,” said Grant, with a yawn. In his honor, make tomorrow your “Break All The Rules” day. And may it be outrageously fun.
***Grant's drawing: He traced his big boy hand, and then drew a picture of himself with an M&M cake. About 6 months ago he didn't draw much more than a frantic scribble because he was being criticized in daycare for not holding a crayon correctly. So he never wanted to color. After some muscle therapy and a new daycare provider, this is what he can do.